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Pacioretty leads Canadiens past Penguins

by James Murphy

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens withstood a late rally by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period and earned a 3-2 victory at Bell Centre on Saturday night to extend their winning streak to three games.

Goals by Max Pacioretty, his second of the game, and Tomas Plekanec in the first 3:25 of the third period gave the Canadiens a 3-0 lead. Penguins forward James Neal scored twice to cut the Montreal lead to 3-2. But Carey Price (29 saves) held the fort once again for the Canadiens, stifling the late pressure from the Penguins.

The Canadiens weren't about to let their hard work slip away after putting themselves in a position to win.

"We put ourselves in a good position to win the game and you try to work hard down the stretch," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "[Evgeni] Malkin made a great play on that second goal, but with those types of players, those goals are going to happen. You just take them off and keep playing. They're good players that will make good plays. I thought we did a good job of playing smart and managing the puck well, moving it out of our zone and not putting ourselves in a position where we let their skill determine the outcome of the game."

Despite the loss, the Penguins were happy with their effort and the fact they didn't crumble after the two quick goals by the Canadiens put them down 3-0

"We battled hard to get back into it," captain Sidney Crosby said. "But it's a tough game to play when you're fighting [from behind] like that in the third period."

Crosby also liked his team's start and credited Price for withstanding the early chances.

"We definitely started very well and got some really good chances," Crosby said. "He kind of weathered the storm early on and allowed them to stay in the game and get that important first goal. He was solid all the way through."

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves in the loss. Pittsburgh's winning streak ended at three games.

Each of Pacioretty's goals came off Penguins turnovers. His first was the result of an Olli Maatta mistake; the rookie defenseman threw a blind pass across the middle while breaking out of the Pittsburgh zone. Pacioretty intercepted the pass, skated across the blue line and ripped a shot past Fleury for a 1-0 lead 1:53 into the second period. His second goal was a result of another Pittsburgh turnover that Montreal defenseman Raphael Diaz was able to intercept and dish to Pacioretty.

“The coaches are always saying protect the small ice, and we're not stretching ourselves out defensively in the neutral zone," Pacioretty said. "I know on my first goal there we want to protect the lines – I mean the red line and the blue lines – and [Diaz] has gotta steer there, and then obviously I was able to step up and read the pass."

Pacioretty has seven goals, five of them in his past three games.

The Canadiens were able to hold Crosby without a point, largely due to the defensive play of Plekanec, who blanketed the NHL's scoring leader throughout the night and dominated in the faceoff circle. Plekanec was 16-for-21 (76 percent), with many of those draws against Crosby.

Plekanec appeared to get under Crosby's skin at times.

"Pleky can get under everybody’s skin," Subban said. "He's got that goatee and that little smirk he puts on his face. But he's a good player. Guys don't like it, but he's a good player. Look at this game, and he's probably one of our best players."

Neal's two goals extended his point streak to three games; he has three goals and three assists during that span.

Meanwhile, after breaking a 15-game goal drought on Friday, Evgeni Malkin extended his point streak to four games, assisting on both goals. Malkin has a goal and six assists in his past four games, but he paid the price on his second assist. Malkin went crashing into the end boards with 2:55 remaining in regulation and needed help getting back to the bench, but he returned for his next shift and almost tied the game in the final minute on a wraparound that was denied by Price.

The Penguins finished the game 1-for-3 on the power play; the Canadiens went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.

Penguins forward Tanner Glass left the game after the second period and did not return. Coach Dan Bylsma said Glass has an upper-body injury and will be evaluated Sunday. Prior to the game, Bylsma announced that forward Beau Bennett, who was injured in the second period of a 4-3 win against the New York Islanders on Friday, could be out for a while.

"Longer than days now right now," Bylsma said. "Right now longer than that."

Matt D’Agostini replaced Bennett in the lineup and skated on a line with Brandon Sutter and rookie Brian Gibbons.

For the Canadiens, Ryan White remained in the lineup for a second straight game, filling in for injured forward Rene Bourque (upper body). On defense, Francis Bouillon was back in and Douglas Murray was a healthy scratch.

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